May 18, 2024

USC football coach Lincoln Riley announced Thursday he has lifted a beat reporter’s suspension one week earlier than planned following a phone conversation with the journalist.

The school’s athletic department informed the Southern California News Group on Sept. 14 that Riley was suspending journalist Luca Evans’ access for two weeks due to violations of the Trojans’ media policy.

The cited infractions included reporting on a conversation he heard while standing in approved media area, asking a follow-up question after a news conference ended, speaking with players and coaches outside of sanctioned times, contacting players’ parents without seeking the school’s permission and using the phrase “garbage time” in a story. Much of Evans’ work cited mirrored practices of other reporters who cover USC.

SCNG appealed the decision in a letter to USC athletic director Jennifer Cohen and president Carol Folt, but Cohen responded by saying they stood by the football department’s decision.

After the newspaper wrote about the suspension, local and national journalists admonished USC for overreacting and disciplining a reporter for doing routine elements of his job.

Riley released the following statement Thursday: “Last night, I received a call from Luca Evans, and we had very candid and productive conversation. We agreed that we both could have handled the situation differently. I appreciate Luca recognizing the policies we have in place to protect our student-athletes and acknowledging to adhere to those in the future. We welcome Luca back to practice and look forward to his continuing coverage of the Trojans.”

Evans posted a statement that read: “Riley made it clear his intent is to protect his players. I made it clear my intent has always been to tell compelling, honest stories on USC — I respect and understand the program’s outlined policies regarding media access, and any missteps came through the intent of doing my job and pursuing relationship-building and storytelling.

“I will continue the same reporting and writing with fairness, accuracy and depth, and we reached an agreement to lift the restriction on access.”

Before joining SCNG, Evans worked at The Times primarily covering high school sports during the last three years.

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